Merseyside & Manchester

I’ve spent this last week alternating between Merseyside and Manchester for all sorts of football-related work. It began on Tuesday with a trip to Old Trafford, where Manchester United resumed their Champions League campaign with a match against Portugese side Sporting Braga. The visitors made an explosive start, taking the lead inside the first 5 minutes before scoring a 2nd soon after. A goal from Mexican striker Chicharito brought it back to 1-2 at half time, leaving a tense 45 minutes ahead. United scored an equaliser through Jonny Evans, before Chicharito scored a late winner to ensure all 3 points…

 

Braga goalkeeper Beto celebrates their 2nd goal

 

Javier 'Chicharito' Hernandez of Man Utd celebrates after scoring their 3rd goal

 

On Wednesday morning, I made my way to Melwood, Liverpool’s training ground, to photograph their training session in advance of the Europa League tie against Anzhi Makhachkala to be played the following night. Liverpool, as a city, contains a wide mix of wealth and cultures, but one thing that seems to be shared across the majority of its inhabitants is a love of football. The sport plays a key role in the city, with two of the English game’s most famous names situated less than a mile from each other, separated by the 110acre Stanley Park.

These training sessions are part of the build-up to any European cup tie; UEFA stipulate that every club has to allow the media a minimum of 10 minutes to film and photograph the session, in order to preview the upcoming fixture. After a 20 minute kickabout in the indoor training centre, we were escorted pitchside and went about our duties, trying to find as many different images as possible in the short timeframe we’d been given.

Manager / key players / manager with key players / newsworthy players / wider squad view / general view with surroundings / gesturing / laughing and smiling. And that’s it. 10 minutes. Done.

On this particular occasion, the best pictures were actually to be had outside the training ground, just before I began packing the car up. A group of fans used whatever they could get their hands on to gain some elevation to see over the perimeter wall and onto the pitch…

 

Fans stand on wheelie bins to see over the perimeter wall and barbed wire

 

A young boy peers over the perimeter wall and barbed wire to watch the training session

 

Fans stand on bikes and wheelie bins to see over the perimeter wall and barbed wire

 

Thursday night was Europa League night – Liverpool vs. Anzhi Makhachkala. Anzhi are a Russian team formed only in 1991, and are well-known primarily for the vast sums of money they’ve been splashing in recent years, and the fact that they train in Moscow, more than 1,000 miles away from where they play their home matches. They bought Cameroon footballer Samuel Eto’o from Inter Milan just over a year ago and are reportedly paying him £350,000 per week! Knowing that a trip to cover their home games would be out of the question, I knew it would be important to make the most of their appearance on English soil and not only try to get as many pictures of them, both as a group and as individuals as possible, but also to record their first visit to one of the most famous grounds in European football…

 

Captains Steven Gerrard of Liverpool and Samuel Eto'o of Anzhi exchange commemorative pennants before the match

 

Jonjo Shelvey of Liverpool battles with Mbark Boussoufa of Anzhi

 

On Saturday, I went back to the Etihad Stadium again, for the late kick-off between Manchester City and Swansea City. It certainly wasn’t the most enthralling match I’ve seen this season, with both sides struggling to create anything worthy of a picture. If anything, it was Swansea who looked the more likely to score, as City failed to step up the level expected of them. Despite this, I chose to photograph City’s attack both halves, in the belief that they would find a breakthrough. When they did, I was a relieved man. Carlos Tevez turned with the ball at his feet on the top of the penalty box and struck it low into the far corner before peeling away towards us roaring with his mouth wide open in celebration.

As nice as it was to get the City goal and the celebration too, an interesting story that emerged from the match was the extra time added on afterwards. We’re used to seeing a few minutes added on here and there thanks to substitutions, injuries, lost footballs etc., but on this day we saw something we hadn’t witnessed before. Injuries to Swansea goalkeeper Michel Vorm and Man City defender Micah Richards, sustained in separate incidents, meant that a minimum of 12 (twelve) minutes were added on at the end of the standard 90. Working for an agency that rely on archive photography as well as ‘live’ sales, I knew that this would be an important picture to get. Not a difficult one to shoot (although I could’ve been blocked by the linesman and/or the other officials or substitutes on the sideline), but nonetheless, an important one. Fortunately, I got it, and it turned out to be a Premier League record, which made it worthwhile…

 

The fourth official, Stuart Atwell, holds up his board to indicate an additional 12 ( twelve) minutes added time

 

I had little time to think after getting in from Saturday’s late KO before getting up and out for Sunday’s Merseyside Derby clash between Everton and Liverpool. Always a stand-out part of the fixture list, I knew there would be a story or two coming out of the game no matter what the score. Red card? Goalline incident? Questionable refereeing decision? This tie usually has one, if not all of these thrown in the mix, and mixed in with the hostile Goodison Park atmosphere, it promised to be a good game.

And it didn’t disappoint. Two early goals from Luis Suarez gave Liverpool a dream start…

 

Luis Suarez of Liverpool celebrates after scoring their 1st goal

 

However, Everton had enough time to turn things around, and they did so, pulling it back to 2-2. With minutes to go (typically, at the far end from me) Suarez bundled in a 3rd goal and turned to celebrate before realising it had been disallowed. Captain Steven Gerrard steamed the entire length of the pitch to celebrate on his knees in front of his own fans, totally unaware of the decision given against them. It was cringeworthy, to be honest, as the Everton fans hurled a torrent of abuse towards him as he got up off the floor with his tail firmly between his legs. The match ended moments later, with each side walking away with 1 point from the draw. It was a fiery match, but one that also contained elements of humour too…something the fans on both sides of the park seem fairly well-drilled in…

 

Suso of Liverpool lands on top of Leighton Baines of Everton

 

An Everton fan holds up cards giving a score of 8.2 for the dive from Luis Suarez of Liverpool

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